Join the Teignmouth and Dawlish Ramblers
Next Sunday, 31st October, is the AGM of the Teignmouth and Dawlish group of the Ramblers, starting at 2 pm at Holcombe Village Hall, halfway between Teignmouth and Dawlish. You don’t have to be a member to come along to the AGM – if you are looking for a walking group to join in Devon, this may be the group for you. The group caters for walkers of all abilities, does a long and short walk every Sunday, evening walks in the summer, walking holidays, and has a busy programme of social events. A great way to get some exercise and meet new friends. Why not visit their website: www.teignramblers.org
I give below an account of how we formed the group.
This will probably be my last AGM with the group. We are soon to leave Devon for the wilder countryside of the North. I have enjoyed my time with the group. In the near quarter century of its existence I have been its chairman, secretary, footpath officer, walks secretary, press officer, and still serve on the group’s committee. We have achieved a lot; not least the fact that all of the public rights of way in the group’s area are clear and walkable. We have created the Teignmouth and Dawlish Way, a 14 mile walk along paths not often used by visitors to Devon, and championed Ramblers campaigns in the area. It has been a productive 24 years. Local groups are a hugely important part of the rambling movement – they deserve all of our support.
So as I take my leave at this AGM I wish the group well. I hope members find the next quarter century as enjoyable as the last – and as productive.
How it all began:
On an spring day in 1987, I went for a walk around Little Haldon, using many of the paths which are now part of the Teignmouth and Dawlish Way. I hadn’t walked them for many years and found them in a parlous state. Several were overgrown, one was deliberately obstructed, and another had a “Private Keep Out” sign where it left the road.
At the time, no RA group covered the area and, as I had recently left the Moorland RA group, I thought it might be a good idea if one was started based on Teignmouth and Dawlish. I had served on the RA Area Council for some years and had been Area Footpaths Secretary, so I first raised the idea with some Area Council members. At first they were discouraging, suggesting that there was no great tradition of walking in the district and that I would be hard put to finding members.
I telephoned the Area’s chairman Ron Vinnicombe and the secretary Alan Haines and asked for their support. They agreed and it was decided to test the water with an inaugural meeting. As importantly, they put up a great deal of money for initial funding. In the meantime, I took up the path problems with the county council and had the private sign taken down and the deliberately obstructed path opened. The overgrown paths had to wait until, eventually, our group cleared them.
Much of the credit for getting the group going, as opposed to having a bright idea, has to go to the late Alan Haines. Despite ill-health, he made several long trips from his home in Seaton to Teignmouth and Dawlish, hired Bitton House for an inaugural meeting, placed a large advertisement and an A5 flyer in the local papers, and arranged for Teignmouth’s Mayor, Mr Tickell, to chair the meeting. The guest speaker was Ron Vinnicombe, who gave an illustrated talk on the history of rambling and the RA.
This was on a Friday night and the meeting was very well attended. We had volunteers for all of the officer posts and committee almost instantly – a rare occurrence! Ron had suggested to me that I lead a walk on the Sunday to keep people enthused. And so I did, several miles around Little Haldon on one of the wettest days of the year. Some of the forty odd who attended we never saw again. But those who stuck it became the groups’ founder members. Some are still with us. In a few days we got a walks programme together, though I had to phone old friends in the RA to get them to lead these early walks. The first walk on a programme was on Sunday October 4th 1987 and was led by Ron Vinnicombe, from Bovey Tracey up the river to Lustleigh. In the early days there was only one walk a week, usually on Sundays, but occasionally on Saturdays or Wednesdays. We used to meet to share lifts at the coach station car park in Dawlish Road, before relocating to Woodway Road to dodge parking charges. Lift sharing is still an important group policy.
As well as walking, the group has always done well keeping rights of way open. At the time of writing, I think I am correct in saying that all the paths in our area are open and walkable. In those early days we set up a path adoption scheme for members, and organised several clearing days.
In the years since, we have organised hundreds of rambles, perambulated the boundary of Dartmoor Forest, walked the Two Moors Way twice, organised walking breaks all over Europe, supported RA policy campaigning for right to roam, turned up at rallies in support of countryside conservation, and organised a huge number of social events.
I hope that the next 25 years of walking and RA campaigning will be as successful as the last quarter century.